Random notes for Week One of the AFL Finals

Here’s my crazy fact – The 2020 Finals will be the first in league history to feature all of Geelong, St Kilda and Richmond.

Richmond and St Kilda have played each other in finals, Geelong has played Richmond and St Kilda in Grand Finals, but the three clubs have never previously featured together at the same time.

In fact, the last time Richmond and St Kilda played in the same finals series was 1973, which was also the last season that Richmond, St Kilda and Collingwood played in the same finals series, prior to this year.

1st Qualifying Final

Port Adelaide (1st) vs Geelong (4th) at the Adelaide Oval, Thursday, 7:10pm ACST

It does seem strange to think about, considering they’re a finals staple, but this is the first time Geelong haven’t played a final on a Friday since the 2013 Qualifying Final.

Funnily enough, that scheduling run started when they played Port Adelaide in the Semi Final the next week.

Anyway, the Pear were the most consistent team of 2020, having held top spot in every round to take home their 4th McClelland Trophy, their first since 2004, and funny coincidence, that year they also played Geelong in the Qualifying Final, on the way to their only AFL premiership to date.

When nobody had any idea why the minor premier was playing on a Sunday

This will be the 4th time Port Adelaide and Geelong have met in the finals, making the Cats the Power’s most common finals opponent, breaking a tie with North Melbourne, Brisbane and Collingwood.

Of course, one of the times they met just happened to be the greatest Grand Final hiding in modern human history….

Port have only defeated the Cats twice in 16 attempts since the permanent scarring of the ’07 Grand Final, and further to it, the Cats thumped them by an even 10 goals in Round 12, which only just missed out on entering the Top 20 worst defeats by an eventual minor premier in league history.

We can probably thank 16 minute quarters for that, because that game was so lopsided even Tom Hawkins enjoyed a percentage booster.

On the milestone front, Jed Bews, son of Andrew, plays his 100th game for the Cats – Jed played his first final in his 31st game, while Andrew had to wait until his 142nd in 1989.

Finally, forget about Geelong’s struggles coming off a bye, this week will determine if the mystical Round 1 Leap Year Premier is going to hold water for the 6th leap year in succession.

Port were top after Round 1.

So were the 2016 Bulldogs, the 2012 Swans, the 2008 Hawks, etc.

Brisbane Lions (2nd) vs Richmond (3rd) at the Gabba, Friday 7:50pm AEST

For the second year running, Brisbane and Richmond will play each other in the Second Qualifying Final at the Gabba, and if my ‘research’ is around the mark, two Top 4 teams playing each other in a Qualifying Final in consecutive seasons has only occurred twice before in this 21st Century finals format.

West Coast playing Sydney in 2005-06.

Sydney playing Fremantle in 2014-15.

I think there may have been a pattern there….

The obvious talking point of the game is that the Tigers go in with a 15-game winning streak against the Lions that stretches over 11 years, or roughly 6 Prime Ministerships, and they haven’t lost to the Lions at the Gabba since 2004.

If Faganism is the one-true footballing religion, then Richmond is like that thing that possessed Regan in The Exorcist that they still can’t get out of her stomach.

Inaccurate kicking has proven the Lions’ greatest flaw, going at a league-worst 46% scoring accuracy through the Home & Away season, and it’s effectively crippled them in their last 2 clashes against the Tigers.

8.17 in last season’s Qualifying Final (Richmond had 3 fewer scores and kicked 18.4), and in the rematch on a Tuesday night in Round 10, the Lions could only kick a pathetic 4.17, as the Tigers made them pay and won by 41 points.

Oddly enough, the Lions haven’t lost since that Tuesday night, and go in to the finals with a 7-game winning streak.

On the milestone front, Trent Cotchin will equal a long-standing Richmond record, playing in his 168th game as captain, equalling the record held by Percy Bentley, who captained the Tigers from 1932-40, and like Cotchin, captained the club in 2 Premierships – 1932 and 1934, when he was the Captain/Coach.

Lastly, in something that has no relevance to Australian Rules Football, a Richmond win on Friday will see their head-to-head streak against the Lions match the well-known winning run Jimmy Connors had against Vitas Gerulaiti in the 1970s.

Eventually, Gerulaitis won at the 17th time of asking, and declared that nobody could beat him 17 times in a row.

As for what that means for Friday, I have no idea, but it’ll be a laugh if the Lions win and Lord Fagan references nobody beating Brisbane 16 times in a row.

2nd Elimination Final

St Kilda (6th) vs Western Bulldogs (7th) at the Gabba, Saturday 4:40pm AEST

The last time St Kilda made the finals, this was the eternal battle of the snakebitten one-premiership Victorian clubs.

In the time between finals visits for St Kilda, the Bulldogs are now twice as successful as the Saints, with 23 fewer wooden spoons.

Obviously, this is the Sainters’ first finals appearance since the 2011 Elimination Final, which marked the unexpected end of the Ross Lyon era, while their win against GWS in Round 18 also came 10 years to the day of their last Finals win – the 2010 Preliminary Final, against the Bulldogs.

Meantime, the Doggies have formed a funny trend under Luke Beveridge.

They made the finals in his first 2 seasons, including that 2016 flag, then missed the finals in the next 2, and have now appeared in consecutive finals series, having finished 7th on both occasions.

Actually, including that 2016 run, they’ve now finished 7th before their last 3 finals appearances, with ’16 and 2019 bringing polar opposite results.

Last note – Saints skipper Jarryn Geary is the only Saints player who has actually played in a final for the club, appearing in the aforementioned 2011 final, and all things being equal, former Dogs skipper Easton Wood will be the only player from that Prelim Final a decade ago who will be featuring on Saturday evening.

That was Easton’s 14th game – Saturday will be his 173rd.

1st Elimination Final

West Coast Eagles (5th) vs Collingwood (8th) at Optus Stadium, Saturday 6:10pm AWST

Buckley vs Molik – The rematch.

This will be the 9th time West Coast and Collingwood have played each other in a final, the most between two clubs in the AFL era (1990-), with Collingwood slightly heading the ledger at 4-1-3, thanks in part to the drawn Qualifying Final of 1990.

The game that cost Essendon the 1990 Premiership

In fact, the replay of that game, which Collingwood won by 59 points, is the only time any of those previous 8 contests were decided by more than 20 points.

This is also the first time West Coast and Collingwood have played each other in an Elimination Final, while they still haven’t faced off in a Preliminary Final.

They’ve played each other five times in Qualifying Finals, twice in Semi Finals, and the 2018 Grand Final, in which Collingwood led by 5 goals, before….

Well, to quote Mark LeCras, “You ‘campaigners’ know what happened.”

In the biggest milestones in terms of games in Week One, Brodie Grundy and Taylor Adams will play their 150th games for the Pies – Adams played in 31 games for GWS in their first 2 seasons before he was traded to the Pies.

Of course, in another classic 2020 moment, because of the intricacies of the WA quarantine setup, the Eagles, who have been in home quarantine since they got back from Queensland on September 18, will have to go back in to quarantine regardless of the result, because the Magpies have only quarantined for just over a week, and are by definition, A DIRTY CLUB.

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